In the short story “Early Autumn,” Langston Hughes uses symbolism, imagery, setting, dialog and narrative to convey the long-lasting effects of lost love and how opportunities slip by when rushing through life. Hughes keeps the reader focused on the theme by conspicuously leaving out details about the characters and other peripheral aspects of the story. We see this right from the beginning of the story when Hughes writes “they had been in love” without telling us who “they” are.
The story is set in Washington Square, a busy place with lots of people walking by, at the end of an autumn day. This setting sets a melancholy mood for the story and also suggests that time is passing by all too quickly. Hughes uses imagery “the leaves fell slowly” and how they “fell without wind,” to allow the reader to sense the mood of the characters. Autumn is a reminder that time is passing and that, perhaps, the good times are behind us.
The plot develops in a simple yet effective way. Only the most important facts are given “Then something not very important had come between them, and they didn’t speak,” keeping the emphasis the relationship between the characters and not on what had come between them. We learn that Mary was “impulsive” in the beginning of the story and remained that way to her detriment. She acted impulsively and hopped on the bus instead of having a meaningful communication with Bill. She lost another opportunity. In the beginning of the story Mary let’s something “unimportant” come between her and Bill. At the end of the story we see once again that between Bill and Mary there were “people they didn’t know” coming between them. These lost opportunities are a recurring motif in this story.
The narrative is consistent with the setting and imagery. Hughes shows us that lost opportunities to foster meaningful relationships has a long-lasting emotional effect. The melancholy that is expressed in the autumn imagery is reinforced in...